Dunga defends betrayal of Brazilian beauty by taking aim at Cruyff
Holland v Brazil: 3pm, Port Elizabeth, ITV1
Friday 02 July 2010
As befits a man who has been in a perpetual state of war with his country's media, Dunga was back on the attack last night, monstering a Brazilian journalist who had dared to suggest that there was an issue with his medical team's diagnosis of Elano's recent injury.
"When I answer, people don't like the answers that I give. How do you think the fans are going to react to this? I would be afraid to make these statements. We constantly have to clarify what the situation is. I'm being open and transparent. They [the press] don't have to respect me. They just have to respect our fans."
It is gripping stuff; the same edgy atmosphere that Sir Alex Ferguson likes to maintain in his dealings with the press although this time those of us in the English press only have to observe from the sidelines. The current face of the beautiful game is a glowering, fed-up coach whose name is Portuguese for "Dopey" – as in "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" – although no one bothers making that joke around him.
If this afternoon's World Cup quarter-final against Holland is where Dunga's Brazil exit the tournament then his final post-match press conference will be box-office stuff. One Brazilian journalist told me yesterday that he expected Dunga to settle a few personal scores before he leaves. "I wouldn't be surprised if it got physical too," he said.
Brazil are favourites today, but only just and there would be a few in Brazil whose disappointment at seeing their team lose would be tempered by the fact that it was Dunga who was copping the blame. But it was not just his Brazilian critics that caught it from Dunga last night, he also went after Johan Cruyff who has criticised this Brazil team for lacking the flair of previous generations and said he would not pay to watch them.
"It's up to him," Dunga said. "Cruyff can pay to watch this game. There are many games that are on offer and democracy allows him to make his own choice, but I'm sure that Cruyff isn't going to pay for his ticket. Therefore he can watch it if he wants to."
The stinging reference to the man who enjoys a free pass was not lost on his audience. But Cruyff's criticism would have suited Dunga just fine. Since he was a member of the World Cup-winning 1994 team he has had to have something or somebody to fight against. Most recently he has taken on Globo, the biggest television network in Latin America, in a feud not unlike Ferguson's with the BBC.
The difference between Globo and the BBC is that Globo is much less supine than its British counterpart and is traditionally viewed as having the same kind of influence over the Brazilian football federation (CBF) as the newspapers in England have wielded in the past over the Football Association. By taking on Globo, Dunga has established himself as something of a radical in Brazil, one man taking on a corporation, which appeals to the fans.
His more immediate problem is picking a team without the injured Elano, and Felipe Melo, who is also doubtful because of injury. The holding midfielder Ramires is suspended. Daniel Alves will play in Elano's place and Dunga is expected to pick Josue, of Wolfsburg, instead of Ramires. Josue's work ethic appeals to Dunga's instincts as a manager.
Like the team of 1994, Dunga's current side are accused of betraying the Brazilian principles of attacking football although they are glorious to watch on the counter-attack. For the new generation of Brazilian fans born in the 1970s who cannot remember the Pele era and regard 1994 as their greatest moment, this is not such an issue although Dunga is constantly forced to address it.
"It's very normal in the World Cup for there to be a certain degree of tension and nervousness on both sides," he said. "My grandfather said that in his days football was excellent. My father says that in his days football was excellent. I say that in my days football is excellent. My son and my grandson will say the same of their era. That in their days, football was very good, that they could dribble magnificently, head magnificently, but we know that world-class players are always outstanding at any point."
The Dutch have the perennial injury worry over Arjen Robben and also Rafael van der Vaart, but otherwise their coach Bert van Marwijk was more philosophical about Cruyff's criticism of the likely qualities of today's game. The Dutch lost to Dunga's Brazil in the quarter-finals in 1994 and then again in the semi-finals of 1998 – which was also Dunga's last game as a player for Brazil.
Van Marwijk said: "We can play football very well. Twenty or 30 years ago it was 'Total Football'. But sport changes and football changes also. Everyone is getting fitter and better organised. So when you play like you used to, it's more difficult to win the World Cup. I can understand what the Brazilians say, but still they play football very well.
"A couple of years ago at the European Championships we played two or three very good matches, but we also conceded a lot of opportunities. When I started, I said very clearly that I wanted to teach the team to defend better. That starts with the attackers. That way you're more stable and you can rely on your defensive organisation. In football, possession is important."
If Dunga does lose tonight then the likelihood is that he goes. The CBF president Ricardo Teixeira has designs on being the Fifa president after Sepp Blatter and it is crucial for him that the 2014 World Cup finals, in Brazil, go well. The most likely replacement is Luiz Felipe Scolari who says that he wants to be a national team manager at 2014 and, as winner in 2002 with Brazil, he would be a popular choice.
Like Dunga, Scolari is from the Rio Grande do Sul region which Brazilians joke is boring because of its proximity to Uruguay. If Scolari comes back then the old hail-fellow-well-met atmosphere will return but for now, for today at least, it will be Dunga's unforgiving style that either thrives or fails.
Three key confrontations
Daniel Alves v Giovanni van Bronckhorst The ultimate modern full-back against the veteran. Alves has the pace to embarrass VB but the Brazilian has not hit top form yet at the World Cup.
Lucio v Robin van Persie This season in Europe, Lucio has proved himself the best centre-half around. Tough and fast but prone to diving. In Rooney and Ronaldo's absence this is VP's chance to show he belongs in the top echelon of world football.
Arjen Robben v Michel Bastos Robben has been the best winger here. Bastos is not a natural full-back. Having been contained by Internazionale in the Champions League final, this is Robben's chance to shine.
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